A to Z of Making It, Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Treating Fans Like Shit

How Much Should Streaming Services Pay?

A lot of people hate Corey Taylor, but I’m not one of em. I enjoy the music he creates, more with Stone Sour than Slipknot and he has a point of view, a stance, which he shares with the world.

In an interview with the Irish Times which Blabbermouth grabbed and ran with a few months ago, Taylor was asked if SLIPKNOT could live just on royalties from listens.

He said, no they couldn’t survive at the current rates but if the streaming services paid the same publishing rate as radio stations than they could.

In Australia that equates to about $6 per song (for the main cities), as regional cities have a lower fee and then there are separate fees paid for when the song is played, like prime time hours or graveyard hours. In some cases the artists pay to get themselves played and they don’t even know it as it’s charged back to them by the label via miscellaneous expenses.

Also the $6 fee is paid just to the songwriters not the recording act. Since Taylor writes his own songs, he is okay in that department as he would get the payment.

But streaming services charge us $9.99 per month to access a catalogue of music. The math doesn’t work and suddenly piracy looks more appealing of that fee goes up.

Taylor doesn’t have a problem with streaming services for what they are trying to do, but he has a problem with them, when they spend millions of dollars on buildings and then more millions on decking out those buildings for offices and then more millions on flying private and more millions on wages while the artists who bring people to their service are not experiencing the same share of those millions.

But hang on a second, the label he’s signed deals with also spend millions of dollars meant for the artists on the same thing.

Steve Miller said something similar about the recording industry and the RNR Hall Of Fame people at his RNR HoF induction, how they take so much money from the artists and they don’t compensate the artist fairly.

The problem that I have as a fan of music is this;

Artists on a label sell their masters to the record labels for a fee. They are compensated at that point in time. Some for a lot more if they are successful and others for peanuts because they didn’t know any better.

The labels are aware of this power they have and since they are offering the cash, they want a return on investment. So the label benefits in this streaming era because they hold the masters.

Get your masters back like Motley and Metallica and suddenly you will benefit as well.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Fans

Fans maketh the artist and the fans taketh the artist.

For all artists, the need to create music is enough of a reason to start. Then some artists will have acceptance of their music. And suddenly artists have a thousand plus hard core fans.

Artists are normally happy to sell out the limited run of super deluxe editions of albums.

For the medium to larger acts, this is about 20,000 copies of an album between the prices of $50 to $200 each, and you can see a cool gross income between $1 million and $4 million. If the artists own their rights and are in control of their masters, then the deluxe editions if done right, can be a nice little supplement.

And streaming also gives the artist control of where their fans are, in which cities they live and which songs these fans are listening to. If the artists have the resources, then they can tour these places. Scorpions and Whitesnake are coming to Australia and I am pretty sure it’s on the back of some impressive streaming numbers, because it wouldn’t be on sales.

More so than ever, the fans decide how they want to commit to their relationship with the artist. And a lot of fans of music are also pretty content to listen to music at home, without feeling the need to go out and watch an artist live.

It’s part of the new world.

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A to Z of Making It, Copyright, Music, My Stories

Take A Walk On The Stream Side

You can buy an album and never listen to it, however if you do listen to the purchased album, the artist has no idea how many times you played it.

Streams means you listened, and it tells the artist which song/s you listened to, even if it was in the background. It tells the artists from which area you are from. It arms the artist with tools to plan their tours.

And it’s rare that you will stream the whole album. You probably will only stream the songs which are your “hits” or if the album crosses over, maybe the actual hits.

And in the same way you cherry-picked your favourites and made that awesome mix tape, or CD once upon a time, you do the same in the digital era with a playlist.

And if artists want fans to buy albums, where do they expect the majority to play them?

Most computers don’t even come with a CD drive and most new cars also don’t have a CD drive either. As for those super expensive stereo systems from the 80’s, are now marketed to audiophiles.

And for iTunes files, its an overpriced offering compared to what is available. I stream and still buy some albums on CD throughout the year. It’s because I can’t stop buying. But the new generation is all about on demand and streaming. It’s a different market and artists need to adjust.

And if artists are waiting on just sales to get traction, they are operating in the old world. Without big streaming numbers, acts get no traction in the mainstream, but acts can have a career on the outer edges, satisfying their core, niche market.

Every artist should be getting their fans to stream. But we still get the voices against streaming services and how these services pay poorly. If that’s the case, you need to renegotiate your terms with the corporations which hold your Copyright.

But streaming shows your fans. If anybody is streaming your music a lot, they’re a fan, and they’ll pay to see you live and they will buy VIP tickets and merchandise and any special edition of an album you put out. Don’t you want to know that information?

And the chart that matters is one of listens. But artists still want sales and that number 1 Billboard spot (for bragging rights) and they package their album with tickets. Metallica did it with “Hardwired” and Jovi did it with their last two albums.

But seriously, is selling an album with tickets reflective of the albums success?

Of course not, it’s typical record label creative accounting. It might matter to the artist, but fans don’t give a shit. And remember, for an artist to have a career, it’s a relationship between fan and artist.

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A to Z of Making It, Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy

Piracy

The debates and arguments never cease. There is no doubt that piracy has grown the fan base of established acts but it hasn’t brought the recorded income with it. For newer artists, look no further than Ed Sheeran, who used peer to peer services to spread his music. Without it, he wouldn’t be the megastar he is.

Researchers also try to quantify how ticket sales equate to people who pirated music. And there is a lot of research out there supporting it. Metallica post Napster started to play stadiums on their own. They rarely did that previously. On top of that, Metallica tested the waters on ticket prices.

Read this interview about how they seized the moment.

I know I became a fan of a lot of bands because of pirated material. Bands like Trivium, Coheed and Cambria, Shinedown, In Flames, Evergrey, Killswitch Engage, The Night Flight Orchestra and Corroded just to name a few. And I had no qualms paying ticket prices if these bands came to town.

High profile bands from the Eighties also had a renaissance in the 2000’s because of pirated material. Motley Crue, Metallica, Guns N Roses, Iron Maiden, Twisted Sister, Megadeth, Judas Priest, Europe and Whitesnake come to mind immediately.

In the same way MTV gave the Seventies bands another chance in the Eighties, piracy gave all the Eighties acts who had some traction another chance in the Two Thousands. Provided they still wanted to work together. Bands like Skid Row, Ratt, Warrant and Dokken unfortunately missed out because key members hated each other.

It’s a pretty simple business model.

Have your music available worldwide for free and people will access it.

All of those bands mentioned above have played cities they’ve never played before and to crowds larger than before. They played these cities without selling any real recorded product in those cities.

But the Copyright holders still complain.

Seriously, is stream ripping really an issue these days. Think about the work/time involved to rip a stream. The people who are doing all of that are not interested to pay for recorded music. Those people will pay via other methods.

I can tell you that in Eastern Europe, I have not come across a legitimate music shop. The few shops I have come across (and I use that term loosely) sell rips of albums. So how do you think the people in Eastern Europe will access music.

In most cases, they will download a copy of the album. But that hasn’t stopped bands from hitting Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, Hungary and Russia on tours. And streaming services are fragmented. Spotify is not available in Serbia, Romania and Russia. Apple Music is available in Russia, but not in Serbia and Romania.

And YouTube is always to blame when it comes to stream ripping, but all the service did was to provide a gap that existed in the market, which Napster highlighted and the labels tried to kill.

Seriously if stream ripping us an issue, then video ripping of video clips in the 80s would also have been an issue.

Who knew that my video ripping ways would end up being a $2000 a year music habit.

It happens. People start to invest when they are ready or have the means to. And again if there is no artist to fan relationship, all of these issues the labels find are pointless.

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A to Z of Making It, Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Unsung Heroes

Def Leppard And The Digital World

There is a Def Leppard story that did the rounds at the start of August. Almost four weeks later, it’s forgotten. That’s how fast people move on. If you are an artist and you spend 12 plus months on an album, just be mindful that it could be forgotten within a month, especially if it’s not part of a cultural movement or crossed over into the mainstream.

Anyway, back to the Def Leppard article.

No one can forget how big Def Leppard was from 1983 to 1994. Huge. Even their sound was huge with multi-layered vocals and instrumentation.

Like all the 80’s heroes, they had a bit of a back lash in the 90’s and maybe alienated some of their fan base with their 90’s sounding “Slang” album. But like all great bands from the 80’s they had a renaissance. I wrote a while back about how I believe piracy made Twisted Sister relevant again from 2000 and onwards and that viewpoint is still held for Def Leppard.

It’s actually even more relevant for Def Leppard, because the band refuses to have their 80’s output on digital services due to a payment dispute with the record label. The label (Universal) wants to pay the band a royalty based on a sale, whereas the band wants the licensing royalty payment which is much higher. The band even found it easier to create their own forgeries (re-recording some of their classics) easier than dealing with the record label.

This leads to an interesting position.

If you cannot purchase the Def Leppard 80’s output legally or stream it legally (apart from the few forgeries the band did themselves and the live releases), what should people do?

Well in this case, they obtain the music illegally (provided they haven’t purchased a legal physical copy)?

In other posts, I have mentioned how bands survive by replenishing their fan base with younger fans. It’s the reason why bands like Ratt and Dokken haven’t really gone well in the 2000’s compared to Crue, Leppard and Jovi. Well, it turns out that Def Leppard is doing a pretty fantastic job at doing just that.

“In recent years, we’ve been really fortunate that we’ve seen this new surge in our popularity. For the most part, that’s fuelled by younger people coming to the shows. We’ve been seeing it for the last 10, 12 or 15 years, you’d notice younger kids in the audience, but especially in the last couple of years, it’s grown exponentially. I really do believe that this is the upside of music piracy.”
Vivian Campbell

While the band is on the road, it works and their popularity is as big (maybe even bigger) as their 80’s popularity. The band is also a heavy user of YouTube, even though the site is the punching bag for the RIAA and the record labels. As YouTube recently said, they pay $3 per 1000 streams in the U.S. If it’s true or not, we will never know until we see proper financials from both YouTube and the labels. But if it is true, Def Leppard would be getting that cut themselves, and I haven’t heard of them taking YouTube to task over their payments. Even Metallica who controls their own copyrights don’t take YouTube to task. Both bands are heavy users of the platform, constantly putting up new content. But if you believe the RIAA and the record labels, YouTube is evil and due to its high volume of users, the payments are not enough.

But in Def Leppard’s case, you could say that YouTube is seen as a more likely driver of new fans than pirate torrent sites. Because all the research shows that YouTube has a user base made up of young people. They are also fostering a true connection with fans again which for a lot of artists who made it in the 80’s is a frightening prospect.

This model will not work for every band. In this case, each creator needs to look at the problem and find a solution that works for them. Eventually Def Leppard’s music will come to streaming services as the band will not be able to tour. But it will be on their terms and their terms only. Like AC/DC and Metallica. They signed their own streaming deal themselves and it’s got nothing to do with the record label.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

What Does A Million In Sales Mean?

It may be a long way to the top, but it’s even harder staying there. A lot of artists talk about the glory days, of selling a million plus albums and “having success”. They are loved and they are all over the press and magazines. Then their “fanbase” based on sale metrics move on and suddenly, the record label is not returning their calls.

Dokken, Ratt, Warrant, Poison, Love/Hate, Slaughter, White Lion, Anthrax, WASP, MSG, Stryper and Yngwie Malmsteen come to mind.

It doesn’t matter what artists did in the past. If their new album isn’t getting played on radio, (not Pandora Radio, actual DJ programmed Radio) then it’s the hard sell of the road for them. And if they don’t have the means and the smarts to hit the road, then it’s even a harder sell.

Y&T is still cleaning up on the road, despite never being on the covers of the magazines, or darlings of MTV or even having a number one mainstream hit. It’s because they are a band made outside the record label system. It was all about touring and gaining fans, city by city, state by state, country by country. Add to that list Tesla.

You notice that the acts that continue to sell and have high streams are constant on radio.

Shinedown, Five Finger Death Punch, Pop Evil, Disturbed and Seether have the top 5 songs on Active Rock Radio right now in the U.S. As a by-product of the radio play, the bands are moving product. Volbeat is another that continues to sell.

This is what Nikki Sixx meant. He saw no point in Motley Crue spending time writing and releasing an album, when Active Rock Radio would just ignore it and the Classic Rock stations would just play the old Crue songs.

Radio was never the be all and end all. The best bands developed slowly. No classic rock band was an overnight sensation. The MTV era, killed off a lot of bands by setting the expectation that all of the artists it played had millions upon millions of fans. MTV video clips sold advertisements. As a byproduct records got sold as well. That led to recorded music revenue.

Recorded music revenue, never got to the bands. Sure the bands got advances to record their albums and they probably felt like rock and roll stars during it, but the truth is the $500K advance or even the $1MIL advance, (that had to be paid back anyway) pales to the revenue the record label got in return. If an album sold a million copies at say $10 gross; that is $10 million in gross sales. Of course some of it would be kept by the record store, some of it by the manufacturers of the LP and all the rest would go to the label and somehow the band would still be in debt.

When Bon Jovi started writing the songs for “Slippery When Wet”, Jon and Richie were still living with their parents and had a million dollar debt to the label, even though they had two albums certified “Gold”. Pretty glamorous right.

In 1987, White Lion released their second album and their first on a major label, “Pride”. It had the single “Wait”, which on release did nothing. It was followed by “Tell Me” which also did nothing. However, the band was still on tour, opening up for Frehley’s Comet, Aerosmith, Ozzy Osbourne, Kiss, AC/DC and Stryper. It was during this touring cycle that “Wait” started to get some serious MTV rotation, seven months after it was released. Hot on the heels of “Wait” climbing the charts, the label released “When The Children Cry” which ended up pushing the “Pride” album into the two million mark. “All You Need Is Rock ‘N’ Roll” followed and the White Lion tour in support of the album, ended in August 1988. High fives all around. Vito was in every guitar magazine and Mike Tramp was posing in every other magazine. Pretty glamorous right.

By August the following year, “Big Game” was released. The album went Gold right off the bat, based from the goodwill that “Pride” created. The band went from 2 million U.S sales to 500K US Sales. “Little Fighter” didn’t catch on, nor there cover of “Radar Love”. “Cry for Freedom” is one of their best songs, however it looks like their serious subject matter about Apartheid just didn’t resonate with the hard rock community. “Goin’ Home Tonight” also came out as a single and disappeared quickly. The band toured, however as Vito Bratta stated in his Eddie Trunk interview, the songs just didn’t resonate with the audiences. The Monsters of Rock bill that had “White Lion” sandwiched between other bands sealed the deal in Vito’s mind that they needed to go back and write some real rock songs. The downward spiral was starting. Vito still had the Guitar covers but he was questioning how to write a “hit” as the label asked them to do. Pretty glamorous right.

So White Lion took a million bucks and went away to write and record their fourth album, “Mane Attraction”. It came out in 1991 and six months later it was all over. It received no radio play. The real fans of the band loved it. But the band wanted the 2 million fans from “Pride”. The label wanted 4 million fans. As I’ve mentioned before, a lot of the casual listeners like songs more than they like the artist, especially songs that crossover. “Wait” and “When The Children Cry” crossed over and fans of other genres picked up the album. It didn’t mean that White Lion had 2 million loyal listeners. So fast forward to 1991 and White Lion can’t even move, 500K units on their new album. Actually they get nowhere near that figure. They are seen as a failure.

“Love Don’t Come Easy” didn’t sell the message of the new listening public. “Lights and Thunder” came out and no one knew what the hell Mike Tramp meant when he sang, “There’ll be lights and thunder”. The re-recorded version of the band’s debut single “Broken Heart”, also didn’t resonate with the listeners at large. Atlantic Records dropped them not long after.

Once you’re in the spiral vortex, it is not easy to get out off it. And the audience, like it or not, always gravitates to what is successful. Tastes change and moods change. Life becomes complicated. The thing is when an album doesn’t outdo it’s predecessor, it’s labelled a flop. And no one, even the record label can understand why. Once upon a time, the label would probably go for another album to see what happens. Today, as soon as it starts going wrong, no one from the label hangs around. They move on.

So what does the artist do?

They doubt their creative process, quit the business or soldier on for a few more years. But the lifers go on forever.

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Copyright, Music, My Stories, Stupidity

Ripped Off – Here Is My Middle Finger Salute

“Gettin’ ripped off, underpaid” ….. from “It’s A Long Way To The Top If You Wanna Rock ‘N’ Roll”

Bon Scott knew his stuff. For a person who had been trying to make it for a long time, he was well seasoned and experienced enough to come up with some great lyrics. He was a perfect fit to the youthism of the Young brothers. If you take the time to dig deep into his lyrics, you will notice a certain theme of being ripped off by promoters and record label execs, which is polar opposite to what artists are saying today. With so much backlash against streaming services and royalty payments, more and more artists are going on record to state that the “fan doesn’t support and respect music”.

So how can the music industry explain how bands that have performed live have not been paid the monies owed to them by the promoters?

The fans that supposedly “don’t support and respect music” purchased their $180 plus concert ticket. Surely this is a show of support to the acts on the bill that people value and respect music.

“So if you’ve got the money, we’ve got the sound,
You put it up and we’ll put it down,
If you got the dollar, we got the song,
Just wanna boogie woogie all night long” ….. from “Aint No Fun (Waiting Around To Be A Millionaire)”

For those that don’t know, the 2016 Soundwave Festival in Australia has been cancelled due to poor ticket sales. However, the roots of the problems go back. From the 2015 edition of Soundwave, a lot of bands are still owed money from their festival appearance.

For the full list, click on this link.

Here is a selection of a few;

The main artists;

  • Soundgarden — $2,132,075.00
  • Slipknot — $1,645,299.29
  • The Smashing Pumpkins — $1,267,446.43
  • Faith No More — $751,076.20
  • Marilyn Manson — $588,000.56
  • Incubus — $571,428.58
  • Slash — $484,628.00
  • Fall Out Boy — $394,107.14
  • Judas Priest — $349,560.55
  • Ministry — $203,952.01
  • Godsmack — $200,000.00
  • Lamb of God — $161,323.33

The medium-sized and self-financed artists;

  • Papa Roach — $93,050.93
  • Steel Panther — $92,517.57
  • Fear Factory — $78,263.96
  • Apocalyptica — $65,601.90
  • Falling In Reverse — $54,064.98
  • Atreyu — $52,044.64
  • New Found Glory — $43,279.88
  • Nothing More — $35,000.00
  • Of Mice and Men — $29,040.00
  • Killer Be Killed — $24,513.00
  • Escape the Fate — $21,985.68
  • Dragonforce — $21,000.00
  • Monuments — $19,153.00
  • Animals as Leaders — $16,607.14
  • Nonpoint — $8,137.54
  • Ne Obliviscaris — $5,720.60

Commissions to an agency for organising acts;

  • Live Nation Worldwide, Inc — $1,180,325.56

That’s some serious dollars taken from the hard-working hands of the fans and not paid to the artists. You see, a fan believes that the act would be getting their cut. It’s an unwritten law that it will happen. The fan also knows that the promoter, venue and so forth would also get their cut. Which in a lot of cases is more than the acts cut.

“Living on a shoe string,
A fifty cent millionaire,
Open to charity,
Rock ‘n’ roller welfare” ….. from “Down Payment Blues”

Life is tough and when you don’t get paid, it’s even tougher, because we all have other commitments that we need to make. So are the fans to blame again for not supporting music.

Are the fans to blame when managers, promoters and record labels rip off the artists?

“It’s a song (“I Believe In You) I wrote a long time ago. Well a long time before it got put on a record, which is kind of a drag in a way because our original managers ripped us off for our publishing (on) the first two Yesterday and Today records. We haven’t received a penny publishing to this day from those two records. I wrote “I Believe in You” about the time they were managing us so when I put it on the “Earthshaker” record well after they were gone they still took my publishing and never gave me a cent for “I Believe In You”. Anyway it was written a long time ago about a break up that I had with a long-time relationship I had with a girl so the song inspired itself more or less.”
Dave Meniketti 

There is a lot of money to be made in music and the fans are spending. The fans respect music and value music. It’s a shame that the corporate entities that benefit largely from the music that artists create don’t value and respect music in the same way.

Unless Artists make a stand and take back their copyrights or organise better rates for themselves when they sell/license their rights to the corporations, then that copyright royalty pay rise will just end up with the corporate entity the artists sold their copyrights too.

SoundExchange, the organization that collects royalties is considering an appeal at the Copyright Tribunals decision to increase the royalty rate that Pandora and other stations needs to pay.

Now why would SoundExchange want to do that?

It’s because they have collected over $3 billion dollars in royalties since 2003 and once you take their standard 30% administration costs, it adds up to a lot of money for SoundExchange for doing absolutely nothing. But they want more of that pie.

Artists as usual get short-changed by all of the corporations taking their cut. And even when they perform live, it looks like they are still being shafted by the promoters.

In Australia, the recording industry revenues are growing and have been since 2012. And what was the defining moment in 2012 that caused this shift in revenue.

Of course, it was the arrival of Spotify in May 2012.

And that is what fans of music do. We double dip. I like to stream and on occasions I love owning something physical from the artists that I support.

Since 2008, those physical purchases include only the special deluxe pieces of art that bands produce. To pay $30 for a DVD/CD special edition album release is just not worth it. I would rather pay the $12 a month Spotify subscription and access that digitally. Recently, I was one of 40,000 people who purchased Coheed and Cambria’s “The Color Before The Sun” Super Deluxe Edition for $70US and I am one of many who have pre-ordered Dream Theater’s new album “The Astonishing” for $170.

Music doesn’t exist without its best customer; the fan. So as a fan, here is a big middle finger salute to all of those comments about fans of music not respecting music.

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